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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Petting your emotional dog

Do you feel at the mercy of your emotions or emotional reactions? Do you find that you respond the same way in many situations -- does everything irritate you?

In mindfulness, we note things arising -- and let them go.

The question that always come up for me is, then what? Where does it go, and why am I still irritated?

Jack Kornfield says the instruction is more like "let it be." Let the story go -- the thing that you tell yourself to explain your reaction -- and be with the energy.

If you're like me, you're now asking how to do that. Kornfield explains it in "The Eightfold Path for Householders:"

-- See it. Label it, acknowledge it, see that it's human. "Well, there it is, there's aversion, there's irritation, there's judgment, there's confusion." When you look directly at the emotion -- without anticipating reactions or consequences -- it's not that bad.

-- Let your heart connect with it as though it were a poor, down-trodden dog that you usually shoo away. It's a metaphorical dog, so just look at it without thinking that it will drool on you or give you fleas or shed hair or whatever the story is that makes you shoo it away. Just see an energy that wants your kind attention. Feel the awwww ....

-- As you open to it, notice its nature and study it as if you were a botanist examing a plant. Where does it begin? What's in the middle of it? How intense does it get? What is the end like? What is the most powerful point of it? What do you feel in your body when this emotion-dog is nudging your mind? What triggers it, and what's the thought or image that comes right before it? What's the story?

-- One last question: Who is making up the story? Kornfield calls that a "very useful question at that moment. It's beginning to observe the movement or the dance of the mind."

Instead of fighting with the energy you don't like, maybe you can learn to like dancing with it.